SHAFAQNA – Earlier this month Shafaqna had the privilege of conducting an interview with
Denis Bauchard, Adviser for the Middle East at the French Institute of International Relations (Ifri). A former diplomat, he was Minister Counselor for Economic Affairs at the Permanent Mission of France to the United Nations, Ambassador to Jordan, Director for North Africa and the Middle East, Director of the Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs Hervé de Charrette and Ambassador to Canada (1998-2001). Former President of the Institute of the Arab World, author of The New Arab World (André Versailles, 2012), he published many articles and research papers on foreign policy and France’s role in the Middle East.
SHAFAQNA – Why is North Africa and the Middle East of strategic importance for France?
DENIS BOUCHARD – For obvious historical reasons France has always led, fostered, and encouraged close ties with the Middle East and Africa. Maybe such ties and relations have been difficult at times: colonialism for example was a difficult period, but France has risen to the challenge and managed nevertheless to maintain a prominent position in the region.
Geographically France is of course very close to both Africa and the Middle East and that means that it is directly impacted by developments in those regions. Anything that happens in the ME and Africa is a matter of national interest for France. This is a reality which will not change.
France has a stake in those regions, if anything out of self-preservation.
SHAFAQNA – Do France’s strategic interests coincide with the interests of the United States?
DENIS BOUCHARD – No! For the very reasons I have outlined earlier France has a vastly different take on Africa and the Middle East. For one immigration from those regions has meant that France has a responsibility towards those communities.
France’s interests I would say clash with the United States quite a great deal. This was made most obvious in 2003 when then-President Jacque Chirac refused to join the US war coalition in Iraq. Today it has manifested in the way that France positioned itself towards Iran.
Paris thinks differently from Washington, but it does not mean that France cannot work with the United States. The two countries are allies.
France I believe has a more balanced position than the United States.